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Headlines for Friday, December 28, 2018

Patrol Works 29 Crashes, 1 Fatal, as Blizzard Hits Kansas

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of drivers crashed or needed help after heavy snow and strong winds created treacherous whiteout conditions in western Kansas. Kansas Highway Patrol Lt. Stephen Larow says the agency responded to 29 crashes Thursday, including one that killed 16-old Jackson Buerge, of Overland Park, and three others with injuries. The patrol says Jackson was riding in a sport utility vehicle that a tractor-trailer rear-ended on a snow-covered stretch of Interstate 70 east of Colby. The Kansas Department of Transportation temporarily closed the interstate and several other highways as parts of the state received 8 to 12 inches of snow. By noon Friday, only one remained closed, a short stretch of Kansas 51. Larow says the patrol also checked on 43 abandoned vehicles and assisted 239 drivers.

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Roads Reopening in Western Kansas After Winter Storm Slams State

HAYS, Kan. (AP) _ Highways are reopening in western Kansas after a blizzard coated the area with snow and caused numerous wrecks. The Kansas Department of Transportation says only small stretches of Kansas 27 and 51 in the extreme southwest corner of the state remained closed this (FRI) morning.  Officials have been gradually reopening roads, including a stretch of Interstate 70 that temporarily closed Thursday when the storm hit, dumping from 8 inches to 12 inches in some areas. The Kansas State Highway Patrol received a report that a tractor-trailer had rear-ended a sport utility vehicle on the snow-covered roadway east of Colby Thursday morning. The patrol says 16-old Jackson Buerge, of Overland Park, was riding in the SUV and died at a hospital. 

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Blizzard Leads to Wrecks, Power Outages in Western Kansas

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A blizzard blanketed western Kansas with snow Thursday, causing whiteout conditions that led to numerous wrecks and highway closures, and knocked out power for thousands of homes. The storm, which began late Wednesday, put about three dozen counties under blizzard warnings or winter storm warnings and advisories. The National Weather Service forecast accumulations of up to 12 inches of snow in some areas and drift-creating gusts of up to 50 mph. By noon Thursday, the snowfall was beginning to slow. The storm also dumped rain across central and eastern parts of the state, said meteorologist Jason Neilson. The Kansas Department of Transportation closed Interstate 70 on Thursday from Goodland to WaKeeney, citing poor visibility. Several other highways were either closed or snow covered in the western part of the state. Governor Jeff Colyer on Wednesday declared a state of disaster that authorizes the use of state resources and workers to help affected areas. The storm left some people in the dark. Wheatland Electric Cooperative was working to restore power to about 2,000 customers in Finney, Gray, Hamilton, Harper, Kearny and Scott counties.

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Kansas Court System Granting Employees Paid Parental Leave

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas court system's employees will now receive six weeks of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The Kansas Supreme Court issued an administrative order Friday covering the 1,600 judicial branch workers under its supervision. The court's order came a month after Gov. Jeff Colyer issued an executive order establishing a similar policy for more than 17,000 employees in executive branch agencies. The Supreme Court sets policy for the judicial branch. Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said providing paid family leave is a step toward keeping the judicial branch competitive with private companies in recruiting employees. Employees on family leave will receive their full pay. The order applies to any employee who had or adopted a child after October 5.

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Kansas Senator Pat Roberts in Session by Himself During Shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts was in session briefly by himself in an otherwise empty Senate chamber during the federal government's partial shutdown. The Kansas City Star reports that Roberts and his wife came Thursday to the Capitol for the Senate's afternoon session while colleagues in both parties remained away. The session lasted only three minutes. Roberts and his wife have a home outside Washington. He hurt his re-election bid in 2014 by being registered to vote at a friend's address in Dodge City, and he bought a home in Topeka in 2016. The 82-year-old, four-term Republican hasn't decided whether to seek re-election in 2020. Roberts told reporters as he was leaving the Capitol on Thursday that he will return to Kansas to meet with his family and campaign team.

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Ex-Department of Revenue Employee to Fill Kansas House Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats have picked a former Kansas Department of Revenue employee to fill a vacancy in the state House. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Democratic precinct committee members on Thursday chose Freda Warfield to replace Rep. Vic Miller of Topeka. Democrats appointed Miller last month to the Topeka-area Senate seat held by Gov.-elect Laura Kelly. She, Miller and Warfield take their new offices Jan. 14. The 58-year-old Warfield worked in state government for nearly three decades, much of it as a Department of Revenue administrative assistant. She prevailed in a 20-4 vote over former Rep. Ben Scott. He filled a vacancy in the same seat in 2016 but lost to Miller in the Democratic primary that year. Warfield will serve the two-year House term that Miller won this year.

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Persons of Interest Sought After Gunfire Erupts Outside Mall 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are seeking two persons of interest after gunfire erupted outside a suburban Kansas City mall, shutting it down on the day after Christmas. Police in Overland Park, Kansas, asked the public for tips in a Facebook post that included photos of the two males and a sport utility vehicle that may have been involved. Both males appeared to be in their teens or 20s. Police want to question them after shots were fired Wednesday night in the parking lot of Oak Park Mall. There were no reports of injuries, but gunfire hit an unoccupied vehicle in the parking lot. The mall reopened Thursday. The gunfire comes two months after a scuffle led to shots being fired outside the mall's food court entrance. One man is charged with attempted murder.

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Gang Members Rounded Up After Kansas Double Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested several gang members and seized eight firearms after two people were wounded in a gang-related shooting in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that the victims drove themselves to a hospital after they were shot Thursday afternoon. Police say their injuries aren't life threatening. Police returned to the area of the shooting overnight with federal agents. They then arrested four suspected gang members. Police say they also seized four rifles, four handguns and a pound of marijuana. No charges have been announced in the case.

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Topeka House Fire Leaves Man Dead, Woman Critically Injured

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Topeka house fire has left a man dead and a woman critically injured. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire started Friday morning in a neighborhood in the northeast part of the city. Fire Department Christ Commander Chris Herrera says crews responded after someone knocked on the door of the nearby fire station to report the blaze. He says the woman was rescued and rushed to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. No other details were immediately released, including the man's name and the cause of the fire.

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Authorities Identify Body Found in Kansas River

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the man whose body was found Christmas Eve in the Kansas River. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Office identified the man as 19-year-old Jacob D. Bouck of Wamego. Authorities are investigating his death as suspicious and say foul play might be involved. Sheriff Greg Riat says Bouck was last seen in the Wamego area early Dec. 21. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is helping the sheriff's office with the investigation. Riat is asking anyone with information to contact the Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Office or the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

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Man Sought After Girlfriend, Her Father Found Dead in Kansas

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching for the boyfriend of a slain woman and her father after their bodies were found in eastern Kansas. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says in a news release that 36-year-old Molly Wilson and her father, 69-year-old John Tadlock, died of apparent gunshot wounds. They were found dead Thursday in their home in Iola, which is about 95 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City. The woman's boyfriend has been identified as a person of interest. The KBI says he may be in the Oklahoma area and driving a maroon 2011 Kia Forte with Kansas license plate 509 KZS. Anyone with information is urged to call Iola police and not approach the man.

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GOP Leader in Kansas House Names Political Veterans to Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican in the Kansas House has appointed two veterans of state government and conservative politics to key staff positions.  Incoming House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said B.J. Harden and Moriah Day will serve as his chief of staff and communications director. Hawkins is a Wichita Republican who will take over as majority leader January 14.  Harden is a deputy transportation secretary who also worked in the state treasurer's and secretary of state's offices. He also held several positions with former Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick, who led the chamber from 2013 through 2016.  Day is an associate for the GOP consulting firm Singularis Group and the chairman of the Kansas Rifle Association's political action committee. He also worked previously in the secretary of state's office.

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Foes of Expanding Medicaid to Lead Kansas Health Committees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health committees in the Kansas Legislature will be led by two conservative Republican lawmakers from Wichita who oppose expanding the state's Medicaid program.  GOP leaders' appointments of Representative Brenda Landwehr and Senator Gene Suellentrop will complicate Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly's efforts to expand state health coverage in line with the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act.  Landwehr will be chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, a post she's held before during a 20-year legislative career. Suellentrop will be chairman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. Both take over January 14.  Suellentrop replaces departing Senator Vicki Schmidt of Topeka. She supported expanding Medicaid but was elected insurance commissioner.  Landwehr will replace fellow Wichita Republican and Medicaid expansion opponent Representative Dan Hawkins. He will become House majority leader.

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Kansas Has New Academy to Promote Now-Legal Industrial Hemp

DESOTO, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas businessman is opening a new academy to train farmers to grow industrial hemp now that its production is legal. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Joe Bisogno's belief in the crop's potential inspired him to open America's Hemp Academy in DeSoto, about 20 miles southwest of Kansas City. It plans to offer four-day courses led by agronomists and botanists starting in January. Industrial hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, but hemp is cultivated to produce small amounts of THC, the main component in the cannabis plant that produces a high. Legislators approved legislation nearly unanimously this year to allow for the production of industrial hemp for research purposes. Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer signed it in April and said the goal is encourage the resurgence of hemp as a production crop and promote economic development in rural Kansas. President Donald Trump recently signed a massive federal farm bill that legalized hemp farming. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who serves as Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, helped negotiate the measure's final version. Colyer said farmers have expressed an interest, but that "there is a lot of work to do it right. It's not going to be for everyone." Industrial hemp stalks can be converted to clothing, rope, carpeting, caulking, insulation, cardboard and newsprint. Seeds can be processed into coatings, solvents, varnishes, inks and fuel. Lotions, soaps and shampoos can be produced from stems, and CBD oil can be extracted from its flowers, an option for pain relief without the marijuana high. Bisogno started the Mr. Goodcents sandwich-shop chain in 1988 and said his interest in hemp started five years ago when he asked the Kansas attorney general's office whether hemp cookies could be produced at a DeSoto plant. The answer was no, but Bisogno didn't drop the idea, studied the hemp business and formed a company, KMC, for Kansas Miracle Crop. The state's climate and soil are right for hemp because "Kansas can grow two crops a year. One in the spring and one in late summer or early fall," Bisogno said.

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Man Charged in Deadly Shooting, Crash Rejects Plea Deal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man who claims he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot an acquaintance has rejected a plea deal that also would have resolved two other cases. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 22-year-old Steven Drake III said Thursday that he was "absolutely" opposed to the deal. Prosecutors say they would have recommended a 15 ½ year sentence in exchange for him pleading guilty to three charges — second-degree murder in the September 2017 shooting of 26-year-old Bryce Holladay, vehicular homicide in the November 2016 crash that killed 24-year-old Taylor Lister and aggravated battery in the July 2017 beating of a teenage boy. Drake is currently charged with first-degree murder in Holladay's death, which carries a possible sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 50 years.

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Police Investigate Report of White Man Kicking Black Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a report that a white man kicked a 1-year-old black child in the back at a Wichita grocery store and yelled racial slurs. The Wichita Eagle reports that 29-year-old Lashantai Whitaker said in an interview Thursday that her son, Jhavii Fry, was walking through the store Sunday, holding his 11-year-old sister's hand, when a man kicked the toddler from behind with his cowboy boot. Her son fell facedown. Whitaker says bystanders tackled the man as he yelled racial slurs. A 31-year-old man was released on $3,500 bond hours after he was booked into jail on suspicion of ethnic intimidation, battery and resisting police. Court records show the man has spent time in a Kansas mental hospital and has a criminal history that includes drug crimes.

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2 Slain Deputies' Families Hire Lawyers to Help Prosecutors

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The families of two Kansas sheriff's deputies who were overpowered by an inmate and killed have hired legal counsel to help prosecutors.  The Kansas City Star reports that husband-and-wife law partners, Tom and Tricia Bath, were retained to assist the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office in the prosecution of 30-year-old Antoine Fielder. He is charged with capital murder in the deaths of Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer last June. In Kansas, the intentional, premeditated killing of a single law enforcement officer is eligible for the death penalty.  Attorneys for Fielder have indicated they will oppose the Baths' participation in the case. Though rarely done, Kansas law allows for crime victims to pay private attorneys to assist county prosecutors, who are required to recognize them as associate counsel.

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1-Year-Old Twins Die in Kansas City House Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities say 1-year-old twins have died in a house fire in Kansas City. Deputy Fire Chief Jimmy Walker says smoke was billowing out of the home when crews responded Thursday afternoon. The Kansas City Star reports that several people escaped the home, where four adults and six children were living. They told firefighters there were still children inside. Walker says firefighters rushed in to find the children, and put out the blaze in 5 to 10 minutes. They found the twins _ a boy and girl _ in the room where the fire started.  Walker says, ``It's especially hard during the holiday times.'' The cause of the fire is under investigation. The names of the twins weren't immediately released.  

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Carnival Workers Extradited to Face Charges in Kansas Deaths

VAN BUREN, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge has dismissed local charges against four carnival workers suspected in the deaths of a retired couple in Kansas. Investigators say one suspect texted the others posing as a carnival mafia boss and ordered them to kill the couple. The suspects were originally charged in Arkansas with abuse of a corpse and other crimes after the couple's bodies were found in Arkansas. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that prosecutors asked that the Arkansas charges be dropped because the suspects have been extradited to Kansas. A Crawford County judge granted the motion last week. The suspects are 52-year-old Kimberly Younger and 54-year-old Michael Fowler Jr., both of Florida; and 35-year-old Rusty Frasier and 38-year-old Christine Tenney of Texas. All but Tenney are charged with capital murder in Kansas for the July deaths of 78-year-old Alfred Carpenter and 79-year-old Pauline Carpenter.

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Man Charged 12 Years Ago with Child Rape in Kansas Arrested

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man charged more than a decade ago with child rape in Kansas has been arrested. The Kansas City Star reports that 48-year-old Javier Vera-Santos made his first court appearance Wednesday in Johnson County. He was arrested in California this month and returned to Kansas. He was charged with one count of child rape in July 2006 in Johnson County. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but county authorities say they had information that Vera-Santos, who was born in Mexico City, left the country. Charges allege Vera-Santos raped a child younger than 14 from July 2003 to January 2006. An Associated Press message seeking comment from his public defender was not immediately returned Thursday. Vera-Santos's bond is set at $100,000. He's due in court Jan. 3.

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New Year's Day Hikes Planned in 19 of 26 Kansas State Parks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nineteen of the 26 Kansas state parks are offering guided New Year's Day hikes as part of a nationwide initiative.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that most of the First Day Hike events will traverse a 1-mile or 2-mile, family-friendly path with park staff leading the way. Many will be along the shores of large lakes, rugged woodlands or broad native prairies. The hikes are free, but participants will need a vehicle permit.  Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism state park director Linda Lanterman said in a news release that it's "an amazing way to get things stared for a New Year." She says many participants return to do more hiking throughout the year.  The First Day Hikes initiative began 25 years ago in Massachusetts.

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Internet Provider Aims to Expand Rural Broadband in Midwest

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — An Illinois-based internet provider is planning to spur broadband development in rural areas across five states in the central U.S.  Wisper ISP Inc. is set to receive money from the Federal Communication Commission for broadband development in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana and Kansas. The company's largest project is in Missouri, where it's getting more than $176 million from the FCC's Connect America Fund for broadband development in 65 counties.  Wisper CEO Nathan Stooke says the business will begin to receive the funding in the next four to six months.  "What excites me the most is that this has been our strategic plan, to grow across Missouri and southern Illinois," Stooke said. "Now that we've won CAF, we have the cash to build the network we have always wanted to. It's something we've been dreaming about for 15 years."  Wisper must build out 40 percent of its assigned areas within three years of financial eligibility, the FCC said in a news release. The company then must increase its development by 20 percent each subsequent year until the project is complete. The deadline is the end of the sixth year.  Malinda Heuring, marketing director at Wisper, said the company will need help locating areas to install the technology and "in getting the word out to potential customers that we have completed the build out."

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Kansas Teen Will Receive High School, Harvard Diplomas in Same Month

ULYSSES, Kan. (AP) — A 16-year-old Kansas boy will soon earn his high school diploma — and a few days later he'll travel to Harvard to collect his bachelor's degree. Ulysses High School senior Braxton Moral will attend both commencement ceremonies in May, becoming the only student to successfully pursue a four-year high school degree and a bachelor's degree from Harvard at the same time, The Hutchinson News reported . Harvard has changed the rules, Braxton's father Carlos Moral said, so his son will "the one and only" reaching that milestone. Braxton Moral will be 17 when he gets his diplomas. Carlos Moral said they began to realize their son was special when he was in the third grade. Braxton Moral skipped the fourth grade. The Ulysses school district allowed him to take some high school classes while he was still in middle school. Before high school he took a class offered at Fort Hays State University. Then he was admitted into Harvard. Moral simultaneously studied at the high school and the Harvard Extension School. The program typically serves adults who work and can't attend classes on campus full time. Ulysses High School math teacher Patsy Love served as the proctor for the Harvard program, administering Moral's tests in Kansas. Moral spent the summer before his junior year at Harvard's campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Moral is on track to graduate from the Bachelor of Liberal Arts program, with a major government and a minor in English, said Harry Pierre, associate director of communications for Harvard's Division of Continuing Education. Moral said he hopes to attend Harvard Law School next.

"Politics is end game for me," he said, though he's still too young to vote.

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